Smokey Chorizo Chilli

 

An absolute favourite in our house!

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1 tbsp oil

1 large onion

2 garlic cloves

500g lean beef mince

120 Spanish chorizo sausage, chopped

1 beef stock cube

1 tbsp mild chilli powder

1 tsp paprika

400g can chopped tomatoes

200ml passata

410g can red kidney beans

2 squares of dark chocolate

 

Firstly, dice the onion and peel and chop the garlic. Heat the oil in a large pan over a medium heat and add the onions, stirring regularly for about 2-3 minutes until they have started to soften.  Add the garlic and cook for a further minute.

Add the chorizo and cook for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the oils start to release, at this point add the beef mince and cook until browned.

Once the mince is brown, add the beef stock cube, chilli powder and paprika and stir in thoroughly.

Add the chopped tomatoes, passata and kidney beans and finally the dark chocolate and stir until fully incorporated.

At this point you can simmer on a low heat until ready to serve or if using a slow cooker you can leave it for a few hours to become nice and tender.

This dish is delicious and filling served on its own, with a dollop of sour cream, or accompanied with fluffy boiled rice or refried beans.

White Chocolate and Pumpkin Mousse

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Autumn is here! Which means it’s time for pumpkin flavoured everything! I love the huge range of pumpkins in the shops and markets at this time of year, there are so many things you can make with them but this has to be one of my favourite pumpkin recipes…

mousse

200g white chocolate

4 eggs, separated

100g pumpkin puree

Whipped cream

Amaretti biscuits to decorate

Melt the white chocolate in a bowl over a pan of simmering water.

In the mean-time whip the egg whites until stiff and fluffy.

Once the chocolate is melted and smooth, remove from the heat and stir in the egg yolks until combined and leave the mixture to cool.  Next, fold the egg whites and the pumpkin puree into the chocolate mixture until everything is incorporated and smooth.

Leave the mixture to cool in the fridge for at least two hours.  Serve the mousse with a dollop of whipped cream and crushed Amaretti biscuits.

Hearty Beef and Red Wine Stew with Dumplings

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1 tbsp oil

2 tbsp plain flour

500g chopped beef stewing steak

1 onion, chopped

1 celery stick, cut into chunks

3-4 carrots, cut into chunks

120ml red wine

400ml beef stock

2 tbsp fresh rosemary

Worcester sauce, to taste

pinch of salt

freshly ground black pepper, to taste

For the Dumplings

120g plain flour

60g suet

pinch of salt

freshly ground black pepper

cold water

Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas 4

Heat the oil in a frying pan, add the beef chunks and fry until just browned. Sprinkle over the plain flour until the beef is evenly coated and fry for a further 2 minutes.

Transfer the beef to an ovenproof casserole dish and add the chopped vegetables, wine, beef stock, rosemary, Worcester sauce, salt and black pepper, cover with a lid, transfer to the oven and cook for at least two hours or until the meat is tender and the gravy is glossy and rich.  I like to slow cook the stew for around 4 hours, making sure I check every 40 mins or so to add extra stock if needed (I usually add an extra glug of wine for good measure too).  You can also make this dish in the slow cooker if you prefer.

For the dumplings, combine the flour, suet, salt and pepper in a bowl and add water 1 tbsp at a time until a thick dough is formed.  Divide the dough into 6 equal balls and set to one side.

Half an hour before serving, remove the lid from the stew, add the dumplings and cook for 20-25 minutes until the top of the dumplings has started to crisp and turn golden.

Serve the stew and dumplings on their own or accompany them with creamy mashed potatoes.

Autumn Leaf Lantern

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These autumnal lanterns are so easy and cheap to make, I usually save empty jam and coffee jars to use as vases and candle holders so I always have some handy in the cupboards.  This is also a perfect excuse to get wrapped up and go in search of the prettiest autumn leaves you can find (my favourite part).  Big leaves, small leaves, orange, yellow, brown leaves, whatever you prefer is fine. Once you have your jars and your leaves all you need is some Mod Podge (the Matte or the Gloss finish, whichever you prefer), a glue brush and some twine or raffia.

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Choose the leaves you want to add to your jar lantern and decide how you would like them to be arranged.  You can stick them on with a small piece of double-sided sticky tape first to make sure you are happy with the arrangement.  When you are ready to stick the leaves to the jar, simply apply a thick layer of Mod Podge directly onto the outside of the jar in the area where you would like to stick the leaf.  Carefully place the leaf onto the glued area and immediately apply another layer of glue on top of the leaf.  Make sure to cover the leaf and the surrounding edges with glue to ensure it has completely stuck to the glass.  Once all the leaves are stuck down, give the jar another coat of Mod Podge all the way round the outside to make sure it looks even and leave to dry overnight. Once the jar has completely dried and the glue has gone clear, tie a length of twine or raffia around the top of the jar and finish with a bow to secure in place.  Your lantern is now ready.  Simply place a tea light candle in the bottom of the jar and enjoy the cosy glow!

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Chunky Winter Broth

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This dish reminds me of my childhood as my Mam used to always make it during the cold winter months. I tent to add whatever sort of veg I can get my hands on at the time and you can make it with chicken, turkey or ham rather than bacon and use the meat stock. There are many different variations you can do depending on personal preference or whatever you have available but they are all delicious!

500g red lentils

1 chicken or vegetable stock cube

1 parsnip

4 carrots

1 leek

1 onion

8 rashers of bacon, chopped, with fat removed

Add the lentils to a large saucepan, cover with water and cook over a medium heat. Don’t add any salt or seasoning at this point, as it will interfere with the cooking of the lentils. Stir the lentils every few minutes, if the water looks like it is being absorbed too much by the lentils just add a few cups more. If the water starts to boil, turn the heat down and leave to gently simmer. There is no exact measurement for the water with this one, just go on the appearance of the broth, if it looks like it needs more water, just add a little more until it looks right.

While the lentils are cooking, chop all of the vegetables and the bacon into small chunks and set to one side.

Once the lentils have softened and the liquid is thick, add the stock cube, the vegetables and the bacon and stir thoroughly.

Cover the pan and leave on a low heat for around 20-30 mins, or until the veg has softened, stirring occasionally.

This is delicious served on it’s own, with warm crusty break or with good old dumplings!

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Toffee Apple Cupcakes

toffeeapple 

 

Use my basic vanilla cupcake and vanilla frosting for this recipe.

110g unsalted butter

130g light brown sugar

45ml double cream

2 apples, thinly sliced

Bake the cupcakes and, once cool, pipe or spoon on the frosting and set to one side.

To make the super simple toffee sauce, gently heat the butter in a saucepan over a medium heat until completely melted.  Add the sugar and cream and whisk constantly until all of the sugar has dissolved. Bring the mixture to a boil and leave over the heat for two minutes.  Remove from the heat and add the sliced apples to the sauce.  Allow to cool before spooning the apples onto the cakes.  Drizzle over a little of the sauce and add a sprinkling of cinnamon.  A perfect autumn treat!!

Brocksbushes Farm

 

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Sunday afternoons are a perfect time to catch up with all the family.  Whenever we can, we all meet up at my Mam’s house for a Sunday roast (it’s always better when Mam makes it) and I usually offer to bring along the dessert.  

My all-time favourite dessert is meringue! Pavlova, nests, Eton Mess, I don’t care! It was one of the first recipes I learned to make as a child, stood on a chair in my Nanna’s kitchen, whisk in hand, dying to try the finished product with some fresh strawberries and pouring cream! 

Anyway, for a recent Sunday afternoon dessert I decided to make a Pavlova. I don’t think you can beat a crunchy meringue with a gooey centre, combined with fresh cream and mixed berries. It is just heavenly! 

As I was making the meringue from scratch I thought it would be fun to pick my own berries for it too (much better than just picking up a punnet of strawberries from the local supermarket) so on the Sunday morning (fruit picked on the day, it doesn’t get much fresher than that!) my fiancé Grant and I took a trip to Brocksbushes Farm.  

We had passed this place loads of times before when Grant was going to play rugby in Corbridge and I had always wanted to visit.  There is just something so satisfying about picking your own fresh fruit!

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When we arrived I was instantly drawn in by their farm shop with its fresh, locally sourced fruit and veg and homemade cakes, breads and pies.  Everything looked so good! We then went through to the picking fields where we were given our own basket to fill with fresh fruit.  

There was a fantastic selection including strawberries, blackberries, plums and raspberries. The selection changes with the seasons so it is definitely worth visiting again throughout the year.  We spent about an hour and a half just filling our basket full of yummy berries, even Grant got into it, looking for the biggest strawberries he could find, like a big kid!

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I was so surprised when we went to pay for our now overflowing basket and the whole thing came to a grand total of £3!  Not much to pay for a lovely morning out in the sunshine and plenty of delicious fruit.  You can really tell that it has been freshly picked; the flavours were amazing! It all tasted so good piled on top of the Pavlova and fresh whipped cream, everyone went back for a second helping!

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Pumpkin Pie Recipe

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Basic Pie Crust

250g plain flour

1/2 teaspoon salt

110g (unsalted) butter, cubed

Grease a 23cm pie dish and put to one side. Put the flour, salt and butter in a bowl and rub together with your fingertips until you get a sandy consistency and everything is combined.

Add 1 tbsp water and stir in with a knife until well-mixed. Add a second tbsp water and stir in until you have a smooth dough. Wrap in clingfilm and chill for an hour.

Roll out on a floured surface and line the pie dish, trimming the edges. (I usually put the lined pie dish back in the fridge for around 20 mins.  Chilling will help prevent the pastry from shrinking)

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Filling

Preheat oven to 170°C (325°F) Gas 3.

1 egg

425g tin pumpkin puree

220ml evaporated milk

220g caster sugar

1/4 tsp ground cloves

1 tsp ground cinnamon

1/2 tsp ground ginger

1 tbsp flour

Put all of the ingredients in a large bowl and mix until smooth and well combined. Pour into uncooked pie crust and bake for 30-40 minutes, or until the filling is set firm.

Leave to cool completely before serving with a big dollop of whipped cream and a sprinkle of cinnamon.

 

Pumpkin Centrepiece

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Pumpkins aren’t just for making Halloween Lanterns – if you are planning a dinner party or get-together this autumn, this simple but very striking pumpkin vase centrepiece is sure to impress your guests and make yourdinner  table look extra special.

You will need: 1 pumpkin, 1  block of oasis, Your choice of foliage, berries and flowers in autumnal colours

Cut around the top of the pumpkin and scoop out the inside (you can use the flesh in one of my yummy pumpkin recipes).  Once the pumpkin has been hollowed out, soak the oasis in cold water before cutting it  down to size so that it fits inside and is level with the top of the pumpkin.  Next, cut your chosen flowers and foliage down to size to that they can be inserted firmly into the oasis but don’t stick out too far..  Start with the berries and other foliage before finally adding the flowers.  Once all the oasis has been hidden and you are happy with the arrangement, your pumpkin vase is ready to take pride of place on your dinner table.

Lemon Posset

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This recipe is so simple and quick to prepare but you won’t believe how tasty the finished result is!

600 ml double cream

140 g caster sugar

2 large lemons, juice and grated zest

Put the double cream in a large pan with the sugar. Bring slowly to the boil and simmer for 3 minutes. Take it off the heat, add the lemon juice and zest and whisk well.  Pour into 6 ramekins or serving glasses and refrigerate for 2-3 hours.  Serve with shortbread biscuits.